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Hinton graduating early, destined for engineering in Utah

After three semesters, Jenny Hinton’s time at Southwestern Michigan College soon draws to a close. She’s graduating in December, and in January the Illinoisan transfers to Utah State University to study electrical engineering. Graduating with an all-A grade-point average means a scholarship saving 90 percent on tuition. Besides math and science ability, which propelled her into SMC’s Honors Program and an officer’s position in Sigma Psi Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the two-year college international honor society, the softball and volleyball standout learned rock-climbing at SMC.

“I feel like I’m a completely different person than high school,” Hinton, 19, said. “I was timid and didn’t like to talk to people. I used to be really socially awkward. I’m no longer uncomfortable in social situations. Leaving home forced me to find myself. I feel like I just got here yesterday.”

“I wanted to be a Welcome Week leader because it’s a great way to get involved and meet people,” Hinton said. “It definitely helped new students feel more comfortable and gave them connections. I see people hanging out now who met at Welcome Week. I love SMC because it’s a great education with plenty of things to do at a fraction of the cost of a big university.”

Affordability and the modern campus housing landed SMC on her radar in the Dowagiac-sized town of Monticello four hours away and 20 minutes from Champaign in central Illinois. Hinton embraced opportunities at every turn and developed relationships that stoked self-confidence in her capabilities.

“Saving money and graduating early didn’t start out as a plan,” she said. “I was lost and had no idea what I wanted to do or if I really wanted to be in college. In high school I thought I wanted to be a teacher, but found I hate explaining stuff to people. Tutoring my roommate in math did not go well.”

Last year she stepped up her course load. “I’m taking 22 credits now” while working in the Career Planning Center. “Graduating debt-free is my motivator,” she said.

Two of Hinton’s strengths, identified in her SMC leadership training, are being analytical and competitive.

“I have known Jenny for a year and a half during her time at SMC. We are both from Illinois, so we often talked about our experiences there,” First Year Experience Manager Katie Hannah said. “Jenny is from downstate Illinois and I'm from the Chicago area. During our time talking about her career plans, she shared that she wanted to use her love of math and science to pursue a degree in engineering. My brother is an engineer, so I was able to share some of his experiences to encourage her interest.

“When Student Services started Welcome Week to engage new students, I was so excited that Jenny was interested in becoming a Welcome Week leader,” Hannah said. “During Jenny’s time as a Welcome Week leader, she has shown initiative, teamwork and leadership. She was a positive role model not only to all our new students, but our other leaders as well. I'm so excited for her new adventure across the country at Utah State to pursue her dream of becoming an engineer. I know she will excel in everything she does.”

Graduating mid-year “is a big step and I’m happy about it,” Hinton said, “but my end goal is a bachelor’s degree, so it’s just the next step — not the end. She expects to earn her baccalaureate degree in the spring of 2021.

Looking ahead to life in Logan, Utah, Hinton said, “I’ll miss my family, but it’s really pretty out there. I can rock climb in the mountains.”